Your Anger During Divorce May Be A Sign Of Depression

Anger and depression are two of the many complex emotions that may occur within a season of divorce. Everyone experiences depression differently, and anger is one way that it may be expressed. This can be especially true in situations where a person feels helpless, which may be the case for someone going through a divorce.

Identifying Anger in Depression

In 2017 alone, major depressive disorder affected more than 17 million U.S. adults. Diagnostic criteria for this condition are depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for a specified period of time. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Significant unintentional weight loss or gain.
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Agitation or psychomotor retardation.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death.

For some people, anger is also a sign of depression. One study reported that “anger attacks” were present in approximately 30% to 40% percent of participants who were depressed. In another study of patients who experienced major depressive episodes, researchers found that overt irritability or anger was found in more than half of the participants.

Understanding the Link Between Depression and Anger

According to Recognizing and Addressing Depression Presenting as Anger, the use of ineffective or inappropriate emotional regulation strategies, as well as an impaired ability to process negative information, may play a role in developing depression. These behaviors can result in:

  • Rumination: repetitive, unwanted, past-oriented negatively inclined thoughts. Individuals who ruminate may mentally rehearse past stressful events and worry about future events.
  • Impaired cognitive reappraisal: inability to reframe one’s thoughts about emotion-eliciting occurrences to change their effects.
  • Increased expressive suppression: attempts to hide, inhibit, or reduce ongoing emotion-expressive behavior.

Within these dynamics, researchers have found that people with depression were more likely to experience anger and irritability if they lacked emotional regulation abilities and if they ruminated on negative events. Both culture and gender can play a role in whether or not an individual uses maladaptive emotional regulation strategies.

Steps to Healing

If you are experiencing anger that may be related to underlying depression, the good news is that there are strategies for treating it. The first step is to be screened by a medical or mental health professional. Depending upon the outcome, treatment may include medication, psychotherapies, or a combination of the two.

Another important step toward healing is to practice self-compassion, which is “a compassionate response toward one’s own suffering, which can interfere with self-criticism likely to be cued during challenging tasks.” Doing so can also be a good motivator for engaging in healthy activities to help you cope with anger caused by depression, arguably a great benefit for you and everyone else involved.  

Author of this article Samantha Keller, is a contributing writer for OnlineMSWPrograms.com.